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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Atmosphere Tester  
  A device used to test the composition of a sample of the atmosphere on another planet, to see if it is breathable by humans.  

When Al and Joe arrive on a planet in an unknown universe, they would like to take off their uncomfortable space suits. But will the atmosphere sustain human life?

"How about removing our space suits? I always feel uncomfortable in them," Al continued.

"Just a moment while I test this atmosphere to see if it's livable."

Joe extracted from the pocket of his suit a clever little device. The turn of a valve, the pressure of a button, and an electric coil heated a sample of the atmosphere. A glance through the tiny spectroscope attachment, and its constitution was revealed.

"Oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide - the same gases that make up our air And just about in the same proportions. Alright Al, we can breathe this atmosphere. Off go the suits!"

From The Emperor of the Stars, by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat).
Published by Wonder Stories in 1931
Additional resources -

Very practical device; this is an early reference to the idea, as far as I know.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Emperor of the Stars
  More Ideas and Technology by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat)
  Tech news articles related to The Emperor of the Stars
  Tech news articles related to works by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat)

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